Safely Storing Swimming Pool Chemicals: Avoiding Disasters

Mark Larm Sep 06, 2023
8 People Read
Properly storing and adding swimming pool chemicals.

Safely Storing Swimming Pool Chemicals: Avoiding Disasters



When it comes to maintaining a clean and inviting swimming pool, proper chemical storage is a topic that should not be taken lightly. The consequences of improper storage and the accidental mixing of pool chemicals can be severe, ranging from health hazards to environmental damage. In this article, we will delve into the importance of safely storing swimming pool chemicals and explore what can happen when these chemicals get mixed.


The Risks of Improper Chemical Storage

Improperly storing swimming pool chemicals can lead to a host of problems, including:


A. Health Hazards


1. Skin and Eye Irritation: Pool chemicals, when mishandled, can cause skin and eye irritation. This discomfort can range from mild to severe, depending on the chemical involved.  Always remember that it’s not just liquid chemicals that give off those harmful fumes, powdered chemicals give off a harmful gas when the container is opened allowing the built-up toxins to be released.


2. Respiratory Problems: Inhaling fumes from improperly stored pool chemicals can lead to respiratory issues, making it difficult to breathe comfortably.  For instance, a friend of mine thought he would take a shortcut and clean his shower out by spraying straight chlorine on the tile and scrubbing it down.  He told me he thought he was going to die when he couldn’t catch his breath for over half an hour. 


3. Chemical Burns: Severe chemical burns can occur if these substances come into direct contact with your skin, which can be excruciatingly painful.  This is especially true with Muriatic Acid.  


B. Environmental Damage


1. Soil Contamination: Chemical spills or leaks can contaminate the soil around your storage area, creating a hazardous environment.


2. Harm to Aquatic Life: If pool chemicals find their way into natural water bodies, they can be detrimental to aquatic life, disrupting ecosystems and harming local wildlife.


Understanding Pool Chemicals


Before diving into proper storage practices, it's essential to understand the different types of pool chemicals and their properties. Common pool chemicals include:


A. Types of Pool Chemicals


1. Chlorine-Based Chemicals:


   Chlorine-based chemicals are the backbone of pool water treatment. They play a crucial role in disinfecting pool water and eliminating harmful bacteria and microorganisms. Here's a closer look at chlorine-based chemicals:


   - Disinfection: Chlorine-based chemicals, such as calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, and dichloroisocyanuric acid, are highly effective disinfectants. They release chlorine into the water, which kills bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.


   - Oxidation: In addition to disinfection, chlorine-based chemicals act as oxidizers, breaking down organic contaminants like sweat, body oils, and leaves that can cloud the pool water.


   - Stabilization: Some chlorine-based products also contain cyanuric acid, which stabilizes the chlorine and prevents it from breaking down too quickly when exposed to sunlight.


   - Regular Maintenance: To maintain a safe and clean swimming environment, pool owners must regularly test and adjust chlorine levels according to recommended guidelines.


2. pH Adjusters:


   The pH level of pool water is crucial for swimmer comfort and the effectiveness of other pool chemicals. pH adjusters are used to maintain the pH balance of pool water within the ideal range, typically between 7.2 and 7.8. Here's more about pH adjusters:


   -pH Control: pH adjusters, often in the form of acids (like muriatic acid) or bases (like soda ash), are used to increase or decrease the pH level of pool water as needed.


   - Swimmer Comfort: Maintaining the correct pH level ensures that the pool water is neither too acidic nor too alkaline, preventing eye and skin irritation in swimmers.


   - Chemical Effectiveness: Proper pH balance is crucial for the effectiveness of chlorine and other pool chemicals. If the pH is too high or too low, chlorine may not work efficiently, and algae and bacteria growth can become a problem.


   - Regular Testing: Regularly test the pH level of your pool water and adjust it as necessary to maintain a safe and comfortable swimming environment.


3. Algaecides:


   Algae growth is a common problem in swimming pools, especially during warm weather. Algaecides are designed to prevent and control the growth of algae in your pool. Here's what you need to know about algaecides:


   - Prevention: Algaecides work by disrupting the growth and reproduction of algae, preventing them from taking hold in your pool.


   - Types: There are different types of algaecides available, including metallic algaecides (copper-based) and non-metallic algaecides. Each has its advantages and is suitable for different situations.


   - Maintenance: Regular use of algaecides can help keep your pool water clear and free from green or cloudy water caused by algae blooms.


   - Compatibility: Be aware of compatibility issues when using algaecides with other pool chemicals, particularly chlorine-based products. Some combinations may result in reduced effectiveness or unwanted reactions.


In summary, understanding the functions of chlorine-based chemicals, pH adjusters, and algaecides is essential for effective pool maintenance. These chemicals work together to ensure that your pool water is safe, comfortable, and free from contaminants, providing an enjoyable swimming experience for you and your family. Regular testing, proper dosing, and responsible chemical management are key to maintaining a clean and inviting pool.


1. Oxidizers:


Oxidizers are chemicals commonly used in pool maintenance, and they play a pivotal role in disinfection and water treatment. Enzymes are my number one choice when it comes to Oxidizing organic materials. Not only are they made to oxidize but they leave behind no residual residue or harmful chemicals in your pool and basically can last for years. However, chlorine-based chemicals, such as calcium hypochlorite or sodium dichloroisocyanurate, also fall into this category. Oxidizers work by releasing oxygen atoms, which oxidize and break down contaminants in the pool water.


However, their reactivity makes them potentially hazardous if not handled with care:


- Violent Reactions: Oxidizers can react violently with various substances, such as organic materials, reducing agents, or even certain metals. These reactions can generate heat, release toxic gasses, or cause fires.


- Compatibility Concerns: Avoid storing oxidizers near reducing agents like pool shock, which contains organic materials. Keeping them separated is crucial to prevent accidental mixing.


- Safe Handling: When using oxidizers, always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for proper dilution and application. Store them in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture to maintain their stability.


2. Reducers:


Reducers, also known as reducing agents, are chemicals that have the opposite effect of oxidizers. Instead of promoting oxidation, they facilitate reduction reactions by donating electrons to other substances. Pool shock, which is often used to increase chlorine levels quickly, is a common example.


Reducers can pose risks when not used correctly:


- Reactivity with Oxidizers: Reducers can react with oxidizers, leading to potentially dangerous consequences. This reaction can release heat, produce gasses, and even ignite.


- Compatibility Awareness: It is essential to be aware of the compatibility of pool shock or other reducing agents with the oxidizers you use in your pool. Do not store them near oxidizers to prevent accidental mixing.


- Proper Usage: When adding reducers to your pool water, follow the manufacturer's instructions precisely. Avoid adding them in concentrated form directly into the pool, as this can lead to localized reactions.


3. Incompatibilities:


Perhaps the most critical aspect of handling pool chemicals safely is understanding which chemicals are incompatible with each other. Mixing incompatible chemicals can result in hazardous reactions. Here are some common incompatibilities to be aware of:


- Chlorine and Acidic Compounds: Mixing chlorine-based products with strong acids (like muriatic acid or sulfuric acid) can release toxic chlorine gas. This gas is not only harmful to inhale but can also damage your pool equipment.


- Chlorine and Ammonia: The combination of chlorine and ammonia-containing compounds, often found in urine or some cleaning products, can produce chloramine gas, which is an irritant and can lead to respiratory problems.


- Chlorine and Pool Shock: Mixing different types of chlorine-based pool shock products or adding shock directly to the pool water without proper dilution can result in hazardous reactions.


- Algaecides and Oxidizers: Some algaecides should not be mixed with chlorine-based oxidizers, as they can form unwanted compounds or reduce the effectiveness of both chemicals.


In summary, understanding the chemical properties and reactivity of pool chemicals is vital for ensuring safe pool maintenance. Oxidizers, reducers, and the knowledge of chemical incompatibilities are key to preventing hazardous reactions and accidents. Always follow manufacturer instructions, store chemicals separately, and be cautious when handling and mixing pool chemicals to maintain a safe and enjoyable swimming environment.



Proper Storage Guidelines


Now that we've discussed the risks associated with improper storage let's explore how to safely store your pool chemicals:


A. Secure Location


   - Store chemicals in a locked storage shed or cabinet to prevent unauthorized access.

   - Choose a high, dry, and well-ventilated area to reduce the risk of moisture exposure.


B. Temperature Control


   - Avoid exposing chemicals to extreme heat or cold, as this can affect their stability and efficacy.


C. Separate Storage


   - Keep chemicals in their original containers to ensure proper labeling.

   - Store incompatible chemicals separately to prevent accidental mixing. If you only have one storage shed try to keep them at least 6ft apart. 


D. Proper Labeling


   - Clearly label containers with product names and safety information.

   - Ensure that labels are visible and legible.


E. Safety Equipment


   - When handling pool chemicals, always wear appropriate protective gear, including gloves and goggles.

   - Keep safety equipment like a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergencies.


F. First Aid and Emergency Procedures


   - Familiarize yourself with first aid procedures for chemical exposure or accidents.

   - Know how to respond in case of chemical spills or other emergencies.


A. Chemical Reactions:


Accidental mixing of pool chemicals can lead to various hazardous chemical reactions, each with its own set of risks:


1. Release of Toxic Gasses:


   - Chlorine Gas: One of the most well-known hazards is the release of toxic chlorine gas. This can occur when chlorine-based pool chemicals come into contact with strong acids, such as muriatic acid. Chlorine gas is highly irritating to the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and even severe lung damage when inhaled.


   - Ammonia: Mixing chlorine-based pool chemicals with ammonia-containing substances, often found in urine or cleaning products, can produce chloramine gas. This gas is less toxic than chlorine gas but can still irritate the eyes, throat, and respiratory system.


2. Fire Hazards:                  


   - Chemical Oxidation: Some chemical combinations can result in a chemical oxidation reaction that generates heat and can lead to fires. For example, if a chlorine-based oxidizer comes into contact with a flammable substance, such as gasoline or oils, it can ignite and cause a fire.


3. Explosion Risks:


   - Chemical Explosions: In extreme cases, certain chemical mixtures can lead to explosions. This risk is most commonly associated with the combination of strong oxidizers and reducing agents. When these substances react, they can release a significant amount of energy, potentially causing explosions and severe damage.


B. Real-Life Examples of Chemical Accidents that I’ve heard about:


Several documented incidents underscore the real dangers of chemical mixing accidents:


1. Public Swimming Pools: In some cases, well-intentioned pool owners have inadvertently mixed pool chemicals, leading to chlorine gas releases. These incidents have resulted in the evacuation of public swimming pools and even hospitalizations due to respiratory distress.


2. Storage Accidents: Chemical mixing accidents can also occur during the improper storage of pool chemicals. For instance, if chlorine-based products and incompatible chemicals are stored together, a hazardous reaction may take place within the storage area, posing risks to anyone nearby.


3. Chemical Transport: During transportation, accidents can happen if pool chemicals are not properly separated or if containers are damaged. These accidents can lead to chemical spills, fires, or gas releases.


4. Professional Pool Maintenance: Even experienced pool maintenance professionals can make mistakes. In some documented cases, professionals accidentally mixed pool chemicals, leading to dangerous incidents and injuries. I remember hearing about a newer pool man who mistakenly added acid thinking he was adding chlorine to a public spa so it turned so acidic that it ruined a lady's bathing suit before she realized that something was wrong with the water and she could get out. 


The key takeaway from these real-life examples is that chemical mixing accidents can happen to anyone, regardless of their experience level. It emphasizes the critical importance of handling pool chemicals with extreme care, following manufacturer instructions diligently, and being aware of the potential risks associated with different chemical combinations.


In conclusion, don’t be afraid, be cautious, because the consequences of chemical mixing in swimming pool maintenance can be severe, ranging from toxic gas releases and fire hazards to the risk of explosions. Real-life incidents serve as stark reminders of the need for caution, proper training, and responsible chemical handling to ensure the safety of both pool owners and those who use the pool. Always follow safety guidelines and seek professional advice if you are uncertain about any aspect of pool chemical management. 


C. Health and Environmental Impacts


The health and environmental impacts of chemical mixing accidents can be long-lasting, affecting not only those directly involved but also the surrounding ecosystem.


Safe Handling and Disposal    


To avoid chemical mixing accidents and ensure the safe use of pool chemicals, follow these guidelines:


A. Proper Mixing Procedures


   - Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when adding chemicals to your pool water.

   - Remember the golden rule: add chemicals to water, not water to chemicals.


B. Spill Management


   - Know how to handle small chemical spills safely.

   - In the case of larger spills or accidents, call professionals who are equipped to manage hazardous materials.


C. Safe Disposal of Expired or Unused Chemicals


   - Follow local hazardous waste disposal guidelines to dispose of expired or unused chemicals properly. Look up your local county website for chemical drop-off points that can come and go. 


Conclusion


Properly storing swimming pool chemicals is not just a matter of convenience; it's a critical aspect of pool maintenance that affects safety, health, and the environment. The consequences of improper storage and chemical mixing can be severe, emphasizing the need for responsible and safe practices. By adhering to guidelines for chemical storage, handling, and disposal, you can enjoy a clean and safe swimming pool while minimizing the risks associated with these essential maintenance tasks. Always prioritize safety to ensure a worry-free and enjoyable pool experience for you and your family.

What we strive for= Clean, Clear & Safe to Swim In.

Have a Blessed Day!